Category Archives: Plants & Technology

Maybe Your Next Computer Will Be Running On Autumn Leaves

Scientists in China and the US claim to have found a valuable use for the thousands of dead leaves that litter the roadsides of China each autumn. Instead of burning them, which is the traditional solution and one that exacerbates China’s air pollution problem, the researchers say they have developed a method to convert the leaves into a porous carbon material that can be used in electronics. (Click on title for full story.)

Your Next Car May Be Made Out Of Trees

Using plants and trees to make products such as paper or ethanol leaves behind a residue called lignin, a component of plant cell walls. That leftover lignin isn’t good for much and often gets burned or tossed into landfills. Now, researchers report transforming lignin into carbon fiber to produce a lower-cost material strong enough to build car or aircraft parts. (Click on title for full story.)

Probiotics Protect Trees Planted For Pollution Remediation

Trees have the ability to capture and remove pollutants from the soil and degrade them through natural processes in the plant. It’s a feat of nature companies have used to help clean up polluted sites, though only in small-scale projects. Now, a probiotic bacteria for trees can boost the speed and effectiveness of this natural cycle, providing a microbial partner to help protect trees from the toxic effects of the pollutants and break down the toxins plants bring in from contaminated groundwater. (Click on title for full story).

Mangroves Cleanse Polluted Soil And Water Of Heavy Metals

Grey mangrove trees, Avicennia marina, filter heavy metals out of the surrounding soil and water. A new study from Indonesia has found that their leaf litter accumulates the most copper, followed by leaves and then roots. (Click on title for full story.)


Plant Resins Reveal Story of 800-year Old Asian Trading Ship

“What was it doing here? What were the ports it went to? Was its end use to be for caulking in a shipyard, or burned as incense at a religious site?” Lambert says. “Getting answers to these questions is how archaeologists spend their time, and what scientists are able to provide a bit of help on.” (Click on title for full story.)


Cryogenic Apples Promise Apples Every Day

These suspended animation chambers for apples occasionally make the news when someone thinks they’ll be alright if they just hold their breath while on a quick visit inside. In 2013, two workers on the Earl of Selbourne’s apple farm on Blackmoor Estate in Hampshire in the UK were found dead in the controlled atmosphere storage room, and in 2015 the manager who sent them in without proper breathing apparatus was convicted of manslaughter. (Click on title for full story.)


Going Where No Seed Has Gone Before: Morning glories In Space

Natural sunscreens help morning glory seeds survive doses of ultraviolet (UV) radiation that would burn most humans to a crisp, according to a new study. The hardy seeds of the common flowering plant would probably even survive a voyage between planets, say the researchers. This might help researchers decide which species to send on future missions to Mars, (Click on title for full story.)


Dandelion Seeds Perfect For Precision Laboratory Work

“Because it has this special omniphilic property, the seed provides us a new way of handling nanoliter-sized droplets in the lab. They are a beautiful controlled environment; they basically seal off the work around them so we can run a very controlled chemical reaction with them. The dandelion comes self-assembled, naturally grown, and its seeds are able to reliably and repeatedly pick up these tiny volumes of fluid that we need to transport in a lab setting.” (Click on title for full story.)


Can The Devastation By Bark Beetles Be Stopped With A Sound Recording?

Bark beetles — whose numbers have reached outbreak levels throughout the West — are hard to keep away from trees. One solution may be to confuse them by playing their own sounds, distorted into a maddening cacophony, back at them. (Click on title for full story.)


Spinach Leaves Used To Mend Damaged Human Hearts?

In a series of experiments, the team cultured beating human heart cells on spinach leaves that were stripped of plant cells. They flowed fluids and microbeads similar in size to human blood cells through the spinach vasculature, and they seeded the spinach veins with human cells that line blood vessels. These proof-of-concept studies open the door to using multiple spinach leaves to grow layers of healthy heart muscle to treat heart attack patients. (Click on title for full story.)